GOMBE, Nigeria –
As the Boko Haram insurgency increases the death toll of Nigerian Christians, Gombe community leaders are struggling to find money for qualified morticians, caskets and the proper burial of the bodies.
Above: Lion eating a dead Nigerian Christian
But that is not the only problem the region is facing.
Due to the violence and shrinking animal habitat, Khaya Research Zoo has been forced to move from a research institution to a refuge for displaced wildlife. However, facing steep budgetary cuts, the zoo is struggling to house and feed the estimated 8,000 animals (and growing) it now protects.
Mohammed Adebayo, head zookeeper at Khaya, etched and executed a plan to remedy both problems:
“We are now feeding Christian human corpses to our carnivorous animals such as lions, cheetahs and hyenas,” Adebayo told Nigeriana.org. “It’s cost-effective body disposal and free food for our desperately hungry animals. Before we started the new program, we were buying pig meat and killing a portion of our grazing animals to feed the carnivores. Now we have an abundance of free human meat which will keep this zoo running until, I hope not, the meat supply runs out.”
Families unable to pay for burial are hesitantly opting to have their loved ones fed to the zoo’s wild animals. But they do get to walk away with a keepsake.
The zoo has a large enclosure filled with flesh-eating dermestid beetles that taxidermist traditionally use to clean the flesh off animal skulls for hunters. (The hunters use the skulls for decorative purposes.)
The remedial technology is now being used on the heads of the deceased. Once the skulls have been cleaned by the beetles, they are given back to families who typically bury the skulls or mount them in their homes.
Above: Dermestid beetles going to town on a Nigerian skull
“We only require one employee to dismember the heads from the bodies and feed them to the beetles,” Adebayo said. “So it costs us very, very little to operate the keepsake program.”
Adebayo said so far everything has been a success.
“This entire operation has been a win-win for all parties involved and has helped Nigeria effectively fight both crises in our region.”